These are more confidential spaces than the large Parisian halls: in the basement of restaurants, in the back of a bar transformed into a stage, shows hatch that we are not used to seeing elsewhere.
If drag shows have been multiplying in Paris for several years, some and especially some wanted something else: “When I started, I didn’t necessarily know that there was new generation drag in France”, says Morphine Blaze, drag queen and party co-creator Screen Queens and Misandrag. She is one of those who offer other types of performances, drawing inspiration from genre cinema in her character, mixing stripping and drag.
In Paris and elsewhere, the drag and cabaret scene is diversifying: this is the case with Cabaret of Dust by Martin Dust or even the Great Cry of Love carried by Diamanda Callas… By no longer limiting itself only to the sometimes smooth image transmitted by shows like RuPaul’s Drag Racethe new stages offer more political, alternative and joyful shows.
The Covid-19 and two years of pandemic have put a stop to the performing arts sector, but the deconfinements have brought many projects out of the ground, such as La Bouche, self-managed queer cabaretwho has taken up residence in the basement of the restaurant Le Co, in the 18th arrondissement of Paris.
“When the theaters closed, we said to ourselves that there was a way there. We nabbed microphones and speakers on Le Bon Coin, and we played on end tables, on Friday evening then on Sunday afternoon with the curfews,” recalls Bili Bellegarde, singer and cabaret creature for La Stuffy.
The owner of the restaurant gives them access to the cellar, which was not furnished. After seven months of work, the cabaret opens in February 2022. “It gave a bit of a flame to this place. It’s our house and we made it as we dreamed of, we gave a lot of time and energy,” she adds.
“It’s poetic, it’s tender, and at the same time it’s enraged”
Morphine Blaze points out that the post-Covid period has boosted new shows while raising the standards of drag a notch: “Some people wanted to invest in their drag and that gave rise to a multiplication of shows that were difficult to achieve in terms of of time and money. »
The drag queen has been hosting for three years the Screen Queen, a cabaret that mixes drag and other artistic disciplines on cinematic themes, and the Misandrag, an open stage for queer women and non-binary people wanting to do drag. “Sometimes it’s system D, we’re really well-honed, but we do what we want! We can make ourselves at home. We have very political performances, and it makes me happy that people dare to do new things, because the public will welcome them,” she explains. The performances are political, and speak of racism, misogyny, transphobia: a way of questioning norms to shatter them.
For Bili Bellegarde, who co-created La Bouche with Grand Soir, Mascare and Soa by Muse (who currently participates in Drag Race France), the shows created in this basement of the Co are like a bubble facing the outside world: “It’s very political because we talk about our lives, our backgrounds, it’s very personal. And at the same time it’s poetic, tender, and it’s quite angry in a good way. It’s an island where for a moment, we make people dream, we take them into our universe. »
In the small cellar with fifty seats, where the dressing rooms adjoin the bar, we go from laughter to tears, from song to clowning. The show changes every week, and La Bouche welcomes many cabaret artists within its walls, from Kilian Androkill, singing creature of Madame Arthur, to Martin Dust of Cabaret de Poussière.
Having your place on stage… When you don’t have it anywhere else
These new scenes are also a way of reinventing the unspoken rules of a sometimes closed environment. “There was a period when in the drag world, we didn’t want women, trans people, drag kings…”, recalls Morphine Blaze. This is why in 2020, a few months before confinement, she launched the Misandrag. Since the deconfinement, she has seen things move and alliances being created, in particular the drag kings: in May, the Bizarre Festival organized an evening at the bar La Folie mixing the two scenes.
In these new scenes, there is also the desire to operate differently: La Bouche is thus based on self-management. “It was a bit obvious to set up this thing with four: to have a place of one’s own, to set up one’s own frames, to be able to talk about subjects that are close to our hearts. We are in the artistic direction, we choose everything together, it’s super horizontal. And financially, the tickets we sell are used directly to pay us, develops Bili Bellegarde. We had decided not to do too much communication, we had neither the time nor the energy, we dreamed that it would work by word of mouth”.
The small room is always full: with 800 tickets sold since February, the mission seems accomplished. “People have this responsibility, if they want it to continue to exist, to talk about it around them. And they do,” adds the singer. If La Bouche relocates for the summer to a few Breton islands, the team hopes that the start of the school year in September will be just as promising. And why not open more than once? “If the public is there”. On good terms…